I’m afraid of falling down and breaking a hip. I’m afraid the battery in my pacemaker will run out of juice and my heart will stop beating.

I’m afraid of airport security with big machines who won’t pay attention and will kill me. But failing? I think I’ve done all the failing I’m going to do this lifetime.


I count on younger generations to handle all additional failures. I’ve exceeded my personal failure quota. I am, however, seriously involved in hanging on through the next commercial cluster of life to see what happens next. I would like to do that while remaining comfortably housed, roofed, and fed. I intend to do my utmost to keep my better half healthy too, while maintaining the handful of relationships that matter to me.

I’m not afraid of failing them, just of losing them. Attrition gets personal after a certain point in life.

I have four implanted replacement parts in this not-all-that-old body. Each one has its own serial number. I stand in absolutely no danger of ever being a “Jane Doe” on some medical examiner’s slab. I figure the parts that can fail, have already failed. The next failure will be my official sign off.

Marilyn with shawl

You are free to worry about failing in love, marriage, job performance, parenting, or any other goal-driven activity to which you are committed. You may be deeply involved in making your next novel a best-seller, quaking with fear that this success or lack thereof will define you.

I’m here to tell you that no matter what happens, your failure — or success — won’t, didn’t, doesn’t define you. Unless you want it to.

You aren’t your achievements, your failures, your fears, your disasters. You aren’t even those nasty messes you leave behind. Or your illnesses and/or disabilities. You are something else. Someone else. You have a soul.

With a variety of replaceable parts.



What do you do to make a living or during the day if you are retired. If you are a student what are you studying?


I’m a lounge lizard. Okay, not a lounge lizard because (a) I don’t lounge and (b) my dry skin isn’t that bad. Yet.

As a retiree, many choices are available to me, as long as they don’t cost money. I take pictures. I write this blog. I listen to audiobooks and occasionally, read a regular book. I read other peoples’ blogs and make comments, to the degree that I have time to do that.


In the company of my better half, I watch reruns of favorite movies and TV shows. I do commentary, he ignores me.

We watch documentaries; I correct the history.

We play with the dogs. We clean while fully realizing the futility of it. We shop for groceries and chat with people at the local supermarket.


I spend an inordinate amount of time on the phone with customer disservice personnel. I “lend” (grant-in-aid) money to my granddaughter. It’s an occupational hazard.

I try to keep ahead of the dirt and I fail. I try to keep on top of the money. I fail at that too. I laugh whenever there’s anything remotely funny and Garry and I count clichés as we watch TV.

That’s life in the slow lane.

Have you ever participated in a distance walking, swimming, running, or biking event? Tell your story.

No. But Garry photographed one this summer. Does that count?


What is usually your first thought when you wake up?

How much do I hurt? Can I move?

Complete this sentence: Look out behind you, it’s a …

zombie. Or a bill collector. Probably a right-wing Republican zombie bill collector.


If you own pets, buying a vacuum cleaner is a big deal. Regular non-pet owning people go to a store and buy a vacuum. Any reasonably good machine will do the job and last for years.


For those of us who have more than one furry friend, buying a vacuum cleaner is a major life event.

In this house, pet hair is not a sidebar: it is, as David Frye says, a condiment. During high shedding season, the house looks like someone slashed open a cushion and spread the stuffing around. Vacuuming and sweeping is a daily task. Failing to vacuum for a couple of days might make the house a candidate for condemnation.

When our Australian Shepherd is blowing his coat, no amount of vacuuming is enough. Everything is covered in fur. I always swore I would never own a dog with so much fur, but promises are made to be broken.


If you happen to own a heavy coated dog or cat (or several), you are always looking for a better vacuum cleaner. It’s a mission. Thus a purchase is an event requiring consultation, discussion and complex negotiations.

What are the parameters? Mostly, that baby has to suck. I want a machine that will pull the wall-to-all off the floor, suck the cushions off the sofa and eat the draperies.

Bonnie morning

It has to be easy to clean because pet hair really clogs the works.

Last, but far from least, there’s the price tag. If I don’t keep clearing it, no vacuum will survive. Small, light machines are a waste of money. Cheap gets expensive when you have to replace it twice in three years.

After burning out two vacuum cleaners in a year, we got a Hoover Commercial Portapower Vacuum Cleaner.

Small and agile, it has done surprisingly well. The review that sold me said: “This little commercial vacuum cleaner is one of the best buys out there. I can clean up Great Pyrenees hair with ease and empty out the bag and start over again without clogging up the vacuum like other machines I have killed with dog hair.”

So far, so good. Against all odds, it is still working. Now, does anyone have a recommendation for an upright? Something that will really suck, please.


Unless you count drinking coffee and checking email as a ritual, I don’t really have any. I do, however, have practices. Stuff I do, stuff I believe or at least pretend to believe.

As time has galloped by, I’ve renounced stuff. I didn’t really need it anyhow. I gave up worrying. I gave up working. I gave up the lottery, although I occasionally still buy a ticket — just in case.

pumpkin patch with steeple

I gave up wanting a new car or expecting old friends to call. Some of them don’t remember me. Some don’t remember themselves I’ve stopped hoping Hollywood will make movies I like, even though they sometimes release a good one.

I’ve stopped trying to like new music and most television shows. I’ve ceased trying to figure out what’s going on with the Red Sox.

Some stuff gave me up.

When anyone asks me how or why I have given up whatever it was, I tell them it was for religious reasons. Almost no one has the temerity to ask what I mean by that. But so you know, I will herein reveal my secret.

UU Church 44

I don’t mean anything. It’s nothing more than a way to end a conversation. No one wants to offend me by asking for the details of my religious beliefs. Who knows? They might turn out to be embarrassing or bizarre. Thus my all-purpose answer to everyone is “religious principles,” or “my spiritual adviser told me to do it.”

Given recent news events, you can but imagine what enormous power these words hold. They will make a conversation vanish without telling someone to shut up. It works on everyone except those who really know me. They will raise one or more eyebrows, and fall over laughing.

If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.

For religious reasons.


Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.

What could possibly go wrong? Life is one hilarious disaster after another. The moment you flash on having finally gotten it together, it falls apart.

Life in shreds? Out of work? Evicted? Hiding from the repo guy? Other half dump you? Medication not working? Bank threatening to foreclose? Don’t take it personally. It’s just a little irony from Karmic Life, Inc.

drinks table dinner

Disaster is life’s cute and funny way of pointing out how little control you have over your fate. Don’t cry. No one likes a cry-baby. Smile! That’s it! Go on. No suffering allowed. No one wants to hear your sad story … unless you turn it into a funny story! Then everyone wants to listen.

Stories of hideous mistakes and horrendous outcomes are the stuff of terrific after-dinner conversation. A few drinks can transform them into hilarity. Misery fuels humor. It’s a fact. Misery, mistakes, and disasters are high comedy. Funny movies are not about people having fun. They’re about people in trouble, with everything going wrong, lives in ruins.


There’s a fine line between comedy and a tragedy. Mostly, it’s all about the ending. Tragedies end with piles of corpses. Comedies (usually) don’t. Otherwise, it’s mostly timing.

Funny stories weren’t funny when they happened. Later, with perspective, they’re funny. After I was told I had cancer in both breasts (they were having a two-for-one-special at Dana-Farber), I had them removed and replaced by silicon implants, but stopped short of adding fake nipples. Previous surgeries having left me with no naval, I now present myself as a space alien. You don’t believe me? It’s true.

And about those fake tits: I own tee shirts that say “Yes, they are fake. My real ones tried to kill me.” It’s a big hit at parties, the high point of my cancer experience.

Fake breasts

Ironically — there’s that word again — a mere two years later, my heart needed a complete overhaul. The ultimate irony because I’d been telling everyone my heart was the only organ that worked properly.

When life goes to Hell in the proverbial hand basket, a lot of people who were sort of friends eye you with suspicion. Is bad luck contagious? There’s also a subtle whiff of satisfaction. They wouldn’t be so rude as to say it aloud, but they are overjoyed it happened to you, not them.

If you are a writer, out of the wreckage may emerge a book — or at least a Freshly Pressed badge from WordPress. See? It wasn’t for nothing.

Personal traumas are collateral damage in our Darwinian battle for survival. No one gets through life unscathed. Mindful of future tragedy lurking down the road, prepare some clever repartee. You can give it a test drive at the next get-together with your more successful friends.

As a bonus, you’ll truly appreciate the humor (irony?) when your friends’ lives go to pieces. It will be your turn to have a good laugh. In private. Later.


Call it fate, Karma, destiny, or Murphy’s Law. It’s all one thing.

No project goes exactly as planned. No vacation is perfect. Some part of the meal won’t be ready when dinner is served.

Guests come early, stay late or leave too soon. Or not soon enough. Complications, delays, bumps in the road are the companions to everything we do. We cope. Like, we have a choice?


Many things almost happen. When I was newly back from Israel, I took a three-day weekend from my new job to visit friends in San Diego. I bought a carry-on bag (I love luggage). Got tickets to San Diego — not easy because most cross-country flights out of Boston go to Oakland, SF, or LA — none of which are close to San Diego.

I got to La Guardia airport, but the plane didn’t. I had a connecting flight in Salt Lake City. Four hours later, the plane was MIA. I demanded my money back


The perky young thing at the ticket counter explained, “These are non-refundable tickets. See? It says so right here. We can get you on a flight to Los Angeles tomorrow afternoon. How’s that?”

I was not feeling perky. More like an Arnold Schwarzenegger about to do serious damage to an airport.

“I took a three-day weekend from work. I won’t get those hours back. I’m not interested in Los Angeles. It’s more than 3 hours drive from San Diego and I don’t have a car. By the time I got there — if I got there — I’d have to turn right around. I’ve had to spend money on taxis, lost my holiday time. All I got is a long afternoon in a waiting room. I want a plane to San Diego. Direct, nonstop because I already missed my connecting flight — or my money back. Now.”


I got the money. Took a taxi home. Spent the weekend feeling sorry for myself. Never made it San Diego or saw those friends. Eventually, I lost touch with those friends entirely.


Our fondest illusion is control. We are proud to be the designers of our destiny. It’s the greatest promise we get as kids, and the biggest lie of all, that if we do “life” right, we can get what we want. You just have to keep trying.

You can try all you want, but some stuff will permanently elude you.

We know — because everyone told us so — that good work will be rewarded. Kindness will be returned. If we eat right, keep fit, exercise, avoid drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol, we’ll be healthy forever. The bad things won’t happen to us. We will live happily ever after.


From little stuff that goes wrong — flights cancelled, vacations rained out — to failed marriages and jobs lost, we get stripped of illusions. Injustice comes in an infinite variety of shapes and sizes, from tiny indignities to incomprehensible calamities. No one is immune.

Sooner or later, it becomes clear. We are passengers on the bus that is life. We aren’t driving. We don’t even know what road we’re on, and have no idea of our destination. After a lifetime of trying to wrestle the steering wheel out of the driver’s hands, I get it. The bus is going where it’s going. It is what it is.

Life is not about where you end up. It’s about the journey. We might as well enjoy it.


Food is about color, texture and scent. Meals are sharing with friends, celebrating life and getting together with the family. We make dinner with a side dish of memories. Dining is discovery — the exotic and new. It’s about comfort and familiarity. Being safe, warm and fed. The act of preparing food evokes memories.

Nutrition is good, but food is better. Feeding your soul, filling your heart as well as your stomach. Pills might keep you alive, but they would never satisfy you. Or at least, never satisfy me. Eating is living.

So break bread with those you love. Drop by the pub after work and share a cold something with the gang. Or alone, in contemplation, with a book.